JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 1 -- There is no doubt in Terrell Owens's mind, at least. The five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver said Tuesday that he will return to the Philadelphia Eagles' lineup and play against the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl, seven weeks after suffering an ankle sprain severe enough to require surgery.
"I'm here," Owens said as reporters crowded around him during the Eagles' portion of Super Bowl media day. "I'm going to play, and that's it."
Eagles receiver Terrell Owens said he will be ready to play Sunday.
(Amy Sancetta - AP)
Not only that. Owens also vowed that, even after missing the final 2 1/2 games of the regular season and the Eagles' two victories in the NFC playoffs, he will be an integral part of the offense Sunday.
"I'm never going to be a decoy," Owens said. "I've never been a decoy since I stepped on the field. . . . I'm going to be very effective. If you guys are looking for me to just go out there and dilly-dally around, it's not going to happen. I'm going to go out there and play hard, and I'm going to play effectively. . . . I feel like I'm a special individual."
Owens participated in portions of the Eagles' practice here Monday, the first time he'd practiced since suffering a syndesmotic, or "high," ankle sprain and a fractured fibula when he was dragged down by Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams during a Dec. 19 game. He might try to participate fully in Wednesday's practice.
"I'm 81 percent," said Owens, who wears No. 81 on his jersey. "By game time, I'll be 181 percent. . . . I had a great day of practice. A lot of people were watching me. All eyes were on me. . . . I'm not 100 percent, but I'm getting there. The game is five days away, and I'll be ready."
Rick Burkholder, the Eagles' head trainer, said that Owens is so serious about his return that he is sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber this week, attempting to promote healing by breathing oxygen in increased levels. Burkholder said that whether that actually is beneficial or not, Owens thinks it helps.
"When it comes right down to it, T.O. has to weigh the risk and reward," Burkholder said. "He's a phenomenal athlete, and what he's done in his rehab has amazed me. If he'd had his way, he'd have played [Jan. 23] against Atlanta [in the NFC title game]. It's the Super Bowl. You only get so many cracks at it. He wants to play in the Super Bowl. He told me the one thing missing from his résumé was a Super Bowl ring. Without playing in the game, he said the ring wouldn't mean as much."
Owens still has to convince Eagles Coach Andy Reid that he's well enough to play effectively without re-injuring himself. Baltimore-based orthopedist Mark Myerson, who stabilized Owens's ankle by inserting a plate and two screws during a one-hour surgical procedure three days after the injury occurred, said last week that he would not clear Owens to play in the Super Bowl. Myerson said that such an injury requires at least eight weeks of rehabilitation before returning to athletic competition.
"I respect Dr. Myerson and his decision to not medically clear me," Owens said. "But I can honestly say that before I went down there, I had been healed and it doesn't matter what anyone says. . . . Even if I go out and re-injure myself, it can be fixed. There's a risk every day. There's a risk getting on the bus to come over here. . . . I can't wait till Sunday. If you believe in miracles, just wait till Sunday."
Burkholder, who accompanied Owens to Baltimore last week to meet with Myerson, said that Myerson will not examine Owens again before the game "unless he gets on a plane and comes down here. As a trainer, I want to raise the bar. If he plays Sunday night, we've raised the bar. . . . Dr. Myerson thinks there's a 100 percent chance he can fix him if he gets hurt again. He said if the screws break, he'll take the screws out and then he'll go through a little bit of a longer rehab. Dr. Myerson said he was not clearing him to play. But he said, 'You're an adult. You're a human being. You can make your own decision.' It was advice. [It was] not, 'You will not play.'
"My goal is that he's 100 percent. I think he's going to be far enough along to contribute. He's made phenomenal progress. He's a genetic freak."
Other Eagles players indicated they would respect whatever decision Owens makes. "It's a fine line," middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "The doctors can tell you something, but no one knows better than yourself. Some people heal differently. You're your own best judge in that situation."
Burkholder said that Owens has been ahead of schedule at every step in his rehabilitation, and the wideout's biggest problem at this point is deceleration. Owens said he's experiencing some tightness in his leg but nothing more than what most NFL players deal with routinely. He said he won't play cautiously Sunday.
"I was very confident a few days after I got hurt that I'd have a chance to get back on the field," Owens said. "Three or four days after the surgery, I told the guys, 'Just get to the Super Bowl and I'll be back.' And here I am. . . . You get to the Super Bowl -- this is what you go through training camp for. This is what you train for -- blood, sweat, tears. This is the game you try to reach. This is the pinnacle."
Staff writer Leonard Shapiro contributed to this report.